Specialty coffee is something of a favorite drink in the US, and Starbucks’ rise to fame making iced, blended, flavored, and everything in between coffee drinks just serves as evidence of its popularity. Everyone who has been in a Starbucks has probably at least heard rumors of it: the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte. Considered the quintessential fall drink, this beverage is hyped from September to Christmas almost every year, with countdowns to when you can buy one for yourself.
Specialty coffee can go way beyond seasonal availability, with smaller coffee shops in every town having their fair share of unique and tasty drinks. Long Beach, already loaded with coffee shops, is no exception and is home to many drinks that give pumpkin spice a run for its money.
Viento Y Agua: Mexican Mocha
Viento Y Agua is a coffee shop local to Belmont Heights, with an extraordinary mixture of Mexican themed decor, local artwork, and some macabre elements that make this location unlike anywhere else you’ve visited. Directly across the street from Fremont Elementary School, and very close to Scratch Bakery, you can spot this cafe by its brightly painted exterior. This is not the ultra sleek modernist coffee shop that many up and comers are styling themselves as, but it is funky, comfortable, and friendly in a way that makes you visit again and again.
Now to the coffee itself: Viento Y Agua has cold and warm options for Long Beach visitors, offering appetizing combos like lavender and vanilla, classic favorites, and our pick for most unique draw, the Mexican Mocha and the Mexican Hot Chocolate. Made with a Mexican chocolate that contains cinnamon, these drinks warm you to your toes and feel like the holidays year round.
Steelhead Coffee: Chuck Palmer
Steelhead is a recent addition to the California Heights neighborhood, sitting close to the corner of Wardlow and Orange, with a great front-window view of the community’s famous farming mural. In comparison to Viento Y Agua, Steelhead is distinctly more of a third-wave coffee shop with minimalist design, clean white walls, and a whole lot of local craftsmen swag. Home to many craft coffee roasters’ goods, Steelhead is a great place to head for a more artisanal approach to coffee but with a very relaxed atmosphere. A second location will be opening at Steelcraft, the food hall based out of shipping containers in Bixby Knolls that should be having their grand opening soon.
All the classics are here, with espresso, cappuccino, lattes, and pourover coffee available. The real head-scratching but delicious drink to get is listed towards the bottom of the wall menu board, and really isn’t a specialty coffee at all: the Chuck Palmer, a great iced mixture of lavender, lemon, mineral water, and tea. This fizzy drink is sour with a touch of sweet, and is absolutely delicious when paired with an espresso to get your full and flavorful caffeine kick. We’ll be sitting in warm weather and Santa Ana winds until well after October, so why not accept our version of fall in Southern California, and get yourself a cold beverage?
Recreational Coffee: The Basilfruit & The Espresso Shake
Recreational Coffee is against the Pumpkin Spice Latte. (Their front door mat says so.) As such, when you go into this little shop off of Long Beach Blvd in East Village, expect high caliber coffee from good roasters and attentive care to your drink.
Continuing the theme of warm weather drinks, Recreational Coffee serves two unique local specialty coffee favorites, the Basilfruit and the Espresso Shake. The Espresso Shake is exactly what you’d think it’s going to be: a shake made with espresso. The quality of the coffee mixed with Strauss ice cream makes this way richer than anything you’ve had before though, and hits pretty much every sweet tooth and coffee craving you had when you walked into the store. The Basilfruit is on the other end of the spectrum, with an edgy mix of flavors that might be strange at first glance but actually make a really polished and well-rounded drink. A mixture of iced coffee and a basil-grapefruit reduction, this drink is sweet, herbal, and tangy all at once. Served with a wedge of grapefruit, this looks like a cocktail from a distance, and is great for sipping from the sidewalk seats.
Fox Coffee House: Honey Bear Latte
Wrigley’s very own family coffee shop is trendy but comfortable, making the perfect spot to let an afternoon drift by in. Surrounded by suburbia, this cafe hides right off of Willow Rd, and occasionally plays host to local musicians and artists. With lots of food options for vegans, this stop is one-of-a-kind for the neighborhood, and hosts sandwiches and specialty baked goods for the more hungry among its visitors.
The Honey Bear Latte is a long-standing favorite, made from a coconut milk vanilla latte, mocha powder, honey, and a shot of espresso to perk you right up. Despite the considerable list of ingredients, this drink is not heavy but instead a creamy mixture of sweetness that doesn’t overpower your tastebuds. If you’re in the mood for the more traditional fall cold weather drink, this can be your new go-to.
Check Out Your Neighborhood
Long Beach is one of the most business-friendly cities in the greater Los Angeles area, and small business is a celebrated and valuable part of the community. This is only a very small collection of options, and many of the shops we mentioned have even more to offer than these drinks. Almost every major Long Beach neighborhood has its own privately owned coffee shop with options far beyond the usual Starbucks options, so give them opportunities to impress you and your palate. It’s good for the local economy and your tastebuds, year round. Maybe they’ll surprise you with a pumpkin-flavored thing of their own this fall!